This is the first part of a series on Pet Therapy and how your canine (or feline) friend can help control pain and emotional issues. This is an introduction to my therapist, Coco, and how I discovered the benefits of Pet Therapy.
Almost 2 years ago, following my first spinal surgery, I had the brilliant idea of adopting a large, adorable puppy.
I went to the local adoption group and played with several different dogs, trying to find the right personality. I wanted a calm, submissive dog that I could train to be a pet therapist. Man’s best friend, social worker’s best assistant. I chose an adorable lab mix; she was not fighting over toys, nor was she running around frantically. When I picked her up for the first time, she sighed, her heart rate slowed and she put her head on my shoulder. I was sold! I came looking for a different breed, but Cesar Milan always says “you don’t get the dog you want, you get the dog you need” and his theory would prove correct. As it turns out, I really needed my new puppy.
After 4 name changes in a week, I finally settled on Coco. I was diligent in training her to be calm, submissive, friendly and obedient (though I really just wanted to love her and give her hugs and kisses). She was a typical puppy and for the first few months she was a little rambunctious, but nothing compared to the horror stories I had heard. Coco didn’t eat shoes, she didn’t chew up the walls, and when she was taught not to do something, she never did it again.
Since I was still in recovery (and little did I know at that time that I would be facing another surgery), I was not able to chase her around the house. From Day 1, Coco seemed to have an uncanny understanding that Mommy was hurt and couldn’t chase after her, so she was extraordinarily well-behaved. Her favorite activity (before she grew to be 50 pounds) was to sit on my lap and just stare into my eyes. I called it “Loving Looks Time with Mommy.” (She still has Loving Looks Time, now she does it lying next to me in bed.) Just looking into her eyes brings me peace.
It was not long before Coco experienced one of my “bad days,” and it was not going to be the last. I was in pain, lying on my bed and crying. Coco was not afraid of the tears. She wasn’t freaked out by the high emotion. She simply came onto the bed and lay with her back against mine and there she stayed until I calmed down. Once I settled, she licked my tears away and remained with me. During the past year and a half and two surgeries, this amazing dog has been there for me, without fail. When I am having a bad day, or when I feel depressed, she will often lie beside me. If I am really emotional, she will come into bed with me and lie on the other side, looking at me as if to say, “I am here if you need me, but otherwise, I will just sit with you so you know you are not alone.”
She is special, she has helped me and because of that, I spoil her. Coco is my baby. She sleeps in bed with me, she has a pool to swim in and she is groomed to perfection. This is her dog nirvana and I truly believe she is thankful and appreciative for the life I am giving her. I truly believe Coco saved my life and my sanity. I don’t know how I would have gotten through the past few years without her constant companionship and her unconditional love. She is my baby.
I would like to continue talking about the benefits of pet therapy and how Coco is teaching me how to love unconditionally, how she helps my pain, etc. Stay tuned for Part II.
Do you have a pet? Has your pet helped you through tough times? I would love to hear about (and see) your canine companions!